Queen of Martyrs principal ousted over mask compliance

A principal at a south suburban Catholic school was ousted this week after he refused to comply with the Archdiocese of Chicago’s mask mandate.

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Parents and students hold up signs and flags in support of Principal M. Jacob “Doc” Mathius outside of Queen of Martyrs Catholic School at 3550 W 103rd St, Evergreen Park, IL, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

A principal at a south suburban Catholic school was ousted this week after he refused to comply with the Archdiocese of Chicago’s mask mandate.

M. Jacob “Doc” Mathius, principal at Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Evergreen Park, met with the parish’s pastor, Rev. Martin T. Marren, on Tuesday to discuss his choice to lift a mask requirement at the school last week — a decision that landed him on administrative leave.

In a letter sent to the school’s community Wednesday, Marren said he planned to welcome the beloved principal back if Mathius made “some fair and reasonable steps that would repair the breach his actions created in our parish and school community, as well as with our sister schools in the Archdiocese.”

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Mathius declined to do so and was fired Wednesday.

“I am saddened, as I trust you are, by his decision,” Marren wrote. “I am sure you can understand that it is not possible for an organization to employ someone who will not abide by rules that apply to all. That is a lesson we teach our children, and it also applies to adults.”

Mathius previously said his decision to lift a mask mandate was made with a “tremendous amount of thought and reflection and in the face of what I expect to be swift retribution by the Office of Catholic Schools in the form of termination.”

Many students and parents came out in support of Mathius after he was put on administrative leave.

Mathius didn’t return the Chicago Sun-Times’ requests for comment Wednesday evening.

In a public Facebook post, the former principal said he had been exiled from the school community for eight days “without the benefit of any communication from an official from the Office of Catholic Schools” before he was invited to a meeting Monday afternoon.

Mathius said officials offered him an ultimatum, saying he would only be reinstated as principal if he followed a number of conditions.

“As I found these conditions to be unreasonable in nature and extreme in scope, I respectfully declined to accept,” said Mathius, who also confirmed his ouster.

“I want to once again offer my humble and sincere thanks to so many of the family members of our Queen of Martyrs School community as well as other private citizens… many of whom I have never met… that gifted me their love and support through this very difficult time,” Mathius continued. “I consider myself fortunate beyond measure to be the recipient of such kindness and affirmation.”

Mathius became principal of Queen of Martyrs in the summer of 2020. Before that, he worked at Brother Rice High School for 43 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The archdiocese declined to discuss the situation, saying it doesn’t comment on “personnel matters.” A spokesperson did confirm, however, that one of the archdiocese’s regional directors has been and will continue to be at the school each day to support the assistant principal as the school looks for a new leader.

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